John McCain died yesterday. I have been a fan of his for many years, but especially since I began researching RESILIENCE. His story, much like other survivors’ stories, teaches us many things about how to respond to adversity. His experiences in Vietnam are not unlike many of the narratives of the Holocaust survivors I’ve been privileged to know. If you’ve never read his story I encourage you to read some of his works.
I was listening to several reporters discuss his legacy and I was struck by the language used to describe him. (You can watch these interviews here.) Those interviewed noted specific characteristics that are uniquely shared by those who are highly resilient: Sense of Purpose, Strong commitment to values and priorities, Perspective, and Personal Responsibility/Accountability.
Those who have survived adversity, especially extreme forms of adversity, often present a humility and compassion that is sometimes surprising, especially among those in high levels of leadership and/or power. Their counterparts often appear quite different in how they respond to criticisms and conflict. John McCain was called a “one of a kind”. Strong, passionate, courageous – yet humble, willing to apologize and admit he was wrong, and compassionate to all even when disagreeing. He taught us that we can experience conflict and disagreement, but remain civil, kind, and respectful. He knew what was important because he had lived without it for six years. I am grateful for his example.